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Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people should be aware that this website contains names, images, and voices of deceased persons.

In addition, some articles contain terms or views that were acceptable within mainstream Australian culture in the period in which they were written, but may no longer be considered appropriate.

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Smith, Stanley John (Stan) (1937–2010)

by Malcolm Brown

'Stan the Man'' Smith was one of the last men standing from the violent times of the 1960s, '70s and '80s when the drug trade took off in Sydney and gangsters battled for control of it. He at least came from an era when the crooks were known – Frederick ''Paddles'' Anderson, Len McPherson, George Freeman – and some were even celebrities.

There is no evidence that Smith actually killed anyone but plenty of people he had dealings with and whom he might have had a grudge against ended up dead. Over 20 years from the late 1950s Smith was said to have been involved in 25 shootings and murders. His reputation was such for him merely to give ''advice'' was enough to bring most tough guys into line.

Stanley John Smith, born on January 3, 1937, grew up in Balmain and did not come to the notice of the police until he was 17. Then he became involved with heavyweights such as McPherson and Freeman. Smith was 16 years younger than McPherson but they hit it off.

In 1963 with several associates they broke into the home of Robert ''Pretty Boy'' Walker, who shot Smith several times. Smith spent weeks in hospital. Some time later, while walking down a street in Randwick, Walker was machine-gunned to death.

McPherson and Smith became heavily involved in ''protection'' of Kings Cross nightclubs and suburban gambling venues. A woman who danced in the Latin Quarter club in the 1960s told the Herald Smith was brutal and enjoyed inflicting pain. ''He was very good looking and we would see him buying champagne,'' she said. ''But if a girl sat at a table with him, she was dead. If the girl did not agree to have sex with him, he would do something like putting a leash around her ankles and hold her out of a top-storey window.''

She said some women went to McPherson for help. Smith beat one woman badly, breaking her jaw and knocking out her teeth. McPherson turned up at the woman's home with henchmen, apologised and pledged to meet all medical costs himself.

McPherson, Smith and Freeman shared profits and offered mutual protection against rivals. As the former assistant police commissioner Clive Small says in his book, Smack Express, ''to challenge one was to challenge all three – and few were prepared to take the risk. Reprisals were swift and without mercy. The triumvirate adjudicated on disputes and ensured that calm was maintained.''

McPherson and Smith boasted that they wanted to get into the ''big time'' of smuggling gold and narcotics. In 1968, Smith and Freeman went to the US on false passports and spent six weeks as guests of mafioso Joe Testa.

In 1970, Smith was fined for trying to sell amphetamines, the first of only two convictions he had.

Smith did have personal problems. His son, Stan jnr, became addicted to heroin. Giving evidence at the Woodward royal commission into drug trafficking, Smith spoke of his son's problems. The son later died of a drug overdose.

As Small records, a few weeks later, the body of a north shore heroin dealer in his 20s was found at Narrabeen Lakes; he'd been run over several times and left to die.

Smith was supportive of Freeman at the royal commission, saying Freeman's supposedly unexplained income came from punting on horses. Justice Philip Woodward commented it might not have been a case of good luck but of ''good organisation''.

Woodward also rejected Smith's account that he was a supervisor at a company, Balmain Welding, that was seen as a front for criminal operations. ''I am of the opinion that his role in this enterprise was one of protection whereby his name and reputation could reasonably guarantee that drug transactions could be effected without interference or rip-offs,'' he said.

Smith's relationship with Freeman and McPherson started to wane but he formed an association with an international drug trafficker, Lawrence McLean.

By this time, Small says, Smith had given up direct violence and become more of a businessman. Like McPherson, he had only to make a telephone call to get things done. By the mid-1970s the two were growing cannabis at Byron Bay and they also began importing high-grade cannabis buddha sticks and hash. In 1979, Smith was convicted and jailed in Victoria for 15 months for possession of marijuana. But his relationship with McLean continued.

Smith's name came up during investigations into the murderous ''Gang Wars'' in Sydney in the mid-1980s. Telephone taps revealed that one of the murder victims, Tony ''Spaghetti Tony'' Eustace, had been involved in a conspiracy with Smith to help another drug dealer, Andrew Stathis, out of legal trouble.

In 1986, Smith's name appeared on a list of targets for the National Crime Authority. Topping the list was Abe Saffron, followed by Karl Bonnette, Robert Trimbole and Frederick ''Paddles'' Anderson.

Smith found religion in 2003. According to the private investigator Rex Beaver, he started reading the Bible and ran legitimate businesses.

He ran several nightclubs and managed property investments. He attended the Evangel Bible Church at Putney, went to Bible study on Tuesday nights, devoted time to feeding the underprivileged and made letterbox drops of religious tracts.

Stan Smith is survived by his wife, Marilyn, and a son, Hayden.

Original publication

Citation details

Malcolm Brown, 'Smith, Stanley John (Stan) (1937–2010)', Obituaries Australia, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, https://oa.anu.edu.au/obituary/smith-stanley-john-stan-16917/text28805, accessed 2 December 2021.

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